Age-related macular degeneration — also called macular degeneration, AMD or ARMD — is deterioration of the macula, that’s the small central area of the retina in the eye that modulates visual acuity.

The health of the macula determines our capacity to read, recognize faces, drive, watch tv, use a pc, and perform any other visual activity that requires us to view fine detail.

Prevalence of eye diseases in the US

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans, and due to the aging of the U.S. population, the amount of individuals influenced by AMD is expected to increase significantly in the years ahead.

As per a recent analysis by investigators at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 6.5 percent of Americans ages 40 and older have some degree of macular degeneration. Other research indicates there were 9.1 million cases of early AMD from the U.S. in 2010 and this number is expected to increase to 17.8 million from the year 2050.

AMD is most common among the older white population, impacting more than 14 percent of white Americans ages 80 and older. One of Americans age 50 and older, advanced macular degeneration affects 2.1 percent of the group general, with whites being affected more often than blacks, non-white Hispanics and other ethnic groups (2.5 percent vs. 0.9 percent).

What Causes Macular Degeneration?

Though macular degeneration is related to aging, the study suggests there is a genetic component to the disease. Duke University and other researchers have noted a strong association between the development of both AMD and the presence of a variant of a gene called complement factor H (CFH). This gene deficiency is associated with almost half of all blinding cases of macular degeneration.

Columbia University Medical Center and other researchers found that variations of another gene, complement factor B, may participate in the development of AMD.

Certain variants of both of these genes, which play a role in the body’s immune reactions, have been found in 74 percent of AMD patients that were studied. Other match variables also may be related to an increased risk of macular degeneration.

Other research has proven that oxygen-deprived cells from the retina to produce a type of protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which triggers the growth of new blood vessels in the retina.

The normal purpose of VEGF is to make new blood vessels during embryonic growth, following an injury or to bypass blocked blood vessels. But too much VEGF in the eye triggers the evolution of undesirable blood vessels in the retina which readily breaks open and bleeds, damaging the macula and surrounding retina.

Nutrition And Macular Degeneration

Many organizations and independent investigators are conducting studies to determine if dietary alterations can reduce an individual’s risk of macular degeneration and vision loss associated with the condition. And some of the studies are showing positive associations between good nutrition and reduced risk of AMD.

For example, some studies have indicated a diet which contains plenty of salmon and other coldwater fish, that contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, might help prevent AMD or lessen the danger of its progression.

Other studies have shown that nutritional supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin raise the density of pigments in the macula that is associated with shielding the eyes from AMD.

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